While you may not know it, I am the firstborn child of Norwegian immigrants. My parents came to this country in 1948 after World War II, seeking more opportunity after enduring the German occupation. While both of my parents were gainfully employed in Norway—my father had a Civil Engineering degree and my mother had a retail store—they were, like many others who came to this country after the war, seeking enhanced opportunities. Luckily for me, they already spoke English—having learned the language in school. Thankfully, they were gainfully employed from the start and did not deal with much discrimination, except maybe being poked fun at for their accents.
For our WCA clients who don’t speak English, we are fortunate to work with translators and contract with a foreign language line to help both staff and clients achieve the best understanding and find the most effective support solutions. While not the same as directly speaking with a person in their native language, it does provide a way for us to understand and deliver the best possible, culturally appropriate program options. Fortunately, we do have Spanish speakers on staff, making a tremendous difference for our Spanish-speaking clients.
After working for an international engineering firm for over 30 years, my Dad and Mom settled in Boise, where my sisters and I still live, allowing us the opportunity to be close to our parents and help them as they slipped into dementia in their 90’s. Supporting them in their later years provided me with an insight into how easily elder abuse can occur.
Many may think of elder abuse as happening between partners. However, the ability of family members or caregivers to abuse mentally or physically infirm loved ones can be easy and terrifying for the older person involved. When my dad could no longer reconcile his checkbook or make financial decisions, he would have been easy prey for anyone designated to handle his care. When memories become jumbled and lines between past and present blur, it is easy to laugh off a story or even a plea for help. When someone becomes utterly dependent on a caregiver to meet their daily needs, they become easily manipulated, neglected or worse — physically harmed due to frustration, anger or general lack of concern. As when your children are very young, your older relatives need your support and watchfulness and protection from abuse more than ever. If you notice changes in behavior and see signs that concern you, don’t hesitate to reach out for help on their behalf.
I am so proud of my heritage and grateful to my parents for enabling me to become a naturalized US Citizen. My privilege was to provide them with the care they deserved as they came to the end of their lives and to continue to learn from them as they slipped away.
Episode 6 of What Compassion Accomplishes Podcast has dropped! Our amazing guest, Crispin, talks to us about an incredibly important conversation, domestic and sexual violence in the LGBTQIA+ community. Click here to listen!
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